It’s time for our Influencer Spotlight Interview: a monthly series designed to provide our influencer community with valuable insider information about the industry. This month, I chatted with my friend, Ali Stone.
Ali is a Chicago-based blogger, photographer and jewelry designer. In 2014 she graduated with a degree in Photography from Columbia College Chicago, where she turned her passion into her business. She hopes to inspire others to wear and do what they love…all at the same time.
I admire so much about Ali’s style as a content creator and knew she would have valuable information about how influencers can elevate their imagery to share with our community. Here is some of the insight she had to share!:
WH: Tell us a little about how you started both your blog and your photography business… and which came first?!
AS: I’ve been a photographer since I was 13. I had my first paid job at 15, got my degree in photography and have been working freelance as a portrait and lifestyle photographer ever since! My blog was born 7 years ago but has taken a bit of a transition since then. It’s been what it is today for the last 4 years or so.
I always loved taking photos for fun with friends. At 14, I took photos at a local bands concert and they ended up loving the pictures. They asked me to come take photos at another show (as a 14 year old girl, hearing this from cute 16-18 year old boys was a huge compliment! HA!) They ended up loving my work and hiring me later on to shoot their album cover and promo materials. This was my first paid job, I was 15 years old. They ended up becoming like big brothers and always looked out for me. We’re still friends 12 years later.
As far as the blog goes! I have been a reader of fashion blogs since they existed and I grew up with an extremely fashionable mother and bubby (grandma). I was always the one who would style my girlfriends for events and was always loaning out my closet and giving fashion advice. I figured maybe if my friends came to me for fashion advice, other people would be interested to. I never knew the right reason or time to start my own blog. I moved to NYC one Summer to intern at Harpers Bazaar and decided that was the perfect opportunity. The rest is history.
WH: You’re constantly creating captivating imagery for brands- whether it’s for your own blog or someone else’s! How do you come up with unique concepts for those photos to make them pop and stand out in such a saturated market?
AS: This is a tough one! I try to think of relatable spaces, props etc. for that specific image to make it more interesting and relatable. I also always do my best to show my goofy upbeat personality so I’m usually smiling or being silly.
WH: Let’s talk more about editing. Your photos have such an identifiable style. What kind of feedback have you received from the brands you’ve worked with? I imagine they would appreciate that consistency…
AS: I think having consistency is important because a brand will know what to expect. Being a photographer, I’m super picky about my content and won’t publish an image unless I’m actually proud of it. Same thing goes when creating content for a brand. I always make sure I can 100% stand behind my content before I send it over. If I’m not certain, I re-do it.
WH: What has been the biggest shift in the influencer landscape you’ve seen during your career, and how have you adapted?
AS: For me, the biggest shift has just been the multitude of people jumping on this career train. 7 years ago when I started nobody knew what a blogger was. Now everybody is trying to be one. It’s been extremely important to me to stay true to who I am and let my personality come through in my content to separate myself from everyone else. I’m also extremely picky about campaigns that I participate in because it needs to be a perfect fit. I’ve spent years building a trusting audience and I would never take any job that didn’t fit my brand because I wouldn’t ever want to misplace my readers trust. They’re my friends and I’ll only share something I can totally stand behind.
WH: What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get started monetizing their influence?
AS: I’d give similar advice to what I mentioned above. Stay true to who who are and what you believe in… ALWAYS. I think this is a job you should only do if you love it and eventually, the money will come. But I’d be willing to bet that’s not why a large majority of us started. This isn’t something you should do just for money because you will burn out FAST if that’s the reason you’re doing it.
WH: Tell us about how collaborations have played a role in your business. And any favorites you’ve participated in to date?
AS: I’ve been SO lucky to work with brands that I have loved and used for many many years and have created friendships and partnerships that I could have never dreamed of. There are way too many favorites to list… But one I always like to mention is my partnership with Almay for 2018. They pulled 18 women from across the country to represent their brand for the year. The criteria they were looking for? Women who are unapologetically themselves. Women who embrace their uniqueness instead of trying to fit the mold. I like highlighting this partnership because it really exemplifies the reason why we all need to stay to true to who we are. It’s SO appreciated in a day in age where so many people try to be like one another.
WH: What are some of the the most important qualities you think are required to be successful in the influencer space?
AS: BE YOU! Be honest! Let your audience get to know you. Be open and open minded. Think outside the box. Have a thick skin… you’ll hear no thank you way more than you hear yes… but it makes those yes’ a bigger accomplishment. Don’t let the answer “no” get you down. Just keep moving towards your goal.
WH: Any other wisdom you’ve gained that you want to share?
AS: If you’re interested in this career my biggest piece of advice would be to be very clear with yourself about why you want to do this. Write it down and remind yourself of that reason every time you feel stuck. 7 years ago I wrote down that my goal was to inspire women to be confident in who they are and what they wear. I still remind myself of that regularly when I’m struggling to find inspiration.
Find and Follow Ali:
Website: Those White Walls
Facebook: Those White Walls